Reuniting African families one at a time
September 6, 2013
Bridges to America helps to reunite African families that have been "separated by war, political unrest, famine, and other hardships," and to conduct service missions in Africa.
Park City resident Adam Miles started Bridges to America almost 10 years ago. "We really started sort of informally," Miles said. "That was just from me helping out somebody that clearly needed some help and helping a family of seven that was [then] reunited.
"I never really had any intention of starting [Bridges to America], it was just one of those things where I have to do something. And so I did."
Miles officially incorporated Bridges to America as a 501(c)(3) four years ago, turning his hobby into a legitimate charitable enterprise. To date, he says the organization has helped reunite one family in Washington, D.C., three families in the California’s Bay Area and one in Salt Lake City.
The families that Bridges helps typically have one or two members here in the United States, with the remaining family members trapped for different reasons that usually include overwhelming travel expenses unable to join them. Airfare is in the thousands of dollars and, because of visa issues, there is sometimes a limited period of time in which those family members can be flown here.
Miles is still affected by the first family that he helped out 10 years ago, and is still close with the family’s patriarch, Joachim Fayani. "We talk every few months and I help him here and there. But he’s totally made it in the U.S.," Miles said. "He’s got kids in college, one’s married now, they’re just productive members of society, and that’s the hope. It’s not like, ‘Hey everybody, come to America!’"
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Miles makes a concerted effort to support the families once they’ve all made it to the United States, but he tries to make that support more than monetary in nature.
"We don’t write big checks to them, because it’s not about money," he said. "It’s about effort and desire, and if you can help and encourage that and they know they have a friend, I think great things can happen."
The second part of Bridges to America’s mission service missions to Africa will continue next year with a trip to Nigeria. There, the organization is in the process of planning a soccer academy for young women. The idea grew out of a trip to Ghana that Miles went on last year with his 12-year-old daughter Kylie, during which they brought food and soccer balls to those Ghanaians in need.
The plan this time is to bring young American women (roughly age 13 through mid-20s) on the trip to Nigeria to help run the academy, including, hopefully, some professional players. Miles spoke of the importance of engaging with young Nigerian women who are in their formative years. He would like to host an annual, roving, regional tournament and possibly offering an educational scholarship and travel to the United States for that education to the winning team.
On the benefits to the American women, Miles said "It’s not to guilt people it’s just to provide perspective. And in the process, help them gain marketable skills. So fundraising, for example, which is essentially selling, project management, things like that."
Fundraising is a critical part of Bridges to America’s operations. "I’m able to put what I can into it. My company matches it. But then it’s all about getting out there in front of other people. It’s really hard," Miles said. "I don’t mind it, I just wish the money would flow a little more easily. But I recognize that (a) there’s so many other great causes out there, and (b) some people get hung up on ‘well gee, it’s overseas.’"
Bridges to America’s next fundraiser, "Charity by Design," will take place in Salt Lake City on Monday, Sept. 9. The organization will be partnering with Alex and Ani a jewelry company based out of Rhode Island that is regularly works with charitable organizations.
"I work in finance, I work on Wall Street, and that’s sort of what occupies my head most days," Miles said. "But this just occupies my heart and I just love it. It’s really fun."
For more information about Bridges to America or for details about Monday’s fundraiser, go to bridgestoamerica.org.
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